Petaluma police crack down on abandoned cars

  • Petaluma Police Officer Paul Accornero explains to a vehicle owner, who refused to give his name, why his car is being towed and how to retrieve it, while Roger Miller prepares to tow the automobile on Carleton Drive in Petaluma, on Wednesday, November 28, 2012. Petaluma Police were doing a sweep of abandoned vehicles throughout the city Wednesday. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

Spiderwebs in wheel wells and weeds growing around the tires were dead giveaways.

The red Honda Accord had been parked on a Petaluma street for well past the three-day legal limit. It had expired registration tags, and storm water was backing up behind the tires when Petaluma Police Lt. Tim Lyons arrived.

"It's been sitting there for, like, ever," said Chelsea Falcone, a neighbor who came out as Lyons ticketed the car. "It hasn't moved in at least a couple months."

Lyons stuck bright yellow and orange notices on the car's windows.

The Honda is one of hundreds of vehicles throughout the city that have been abandoned or otherwise left on the street longer than the law allows. On Wednesday, Petaluma police fanned out in an effort to scour every city street to find them and either warn owners or tow violators.

"We continue to get a lot of complaints. We're trying to keep on top of it," Lyons said.

Residents unhappy with unlicensed, unregistered, stolen, abandoned or inoperable vehicles sitting dormant on their streets -- or RVs, trailers or boats simply being stored in shared spaces -- are increasingly urging police to step up enforcement. Last month, police received 105 calls about abandoned vehicles on city streets, Lyons said, bringing this year's total so far to 1,140 complaints.

The department conducts such sweeps twice a year. In July, 263 vehicles were tagged with courtesy notices alerting owners that the vehicles would be towed if not moved within three days.

On Wednesday, officers had no trouble finding violations throughout town. By afternoon, 123 courtesy notices had been issued. Another 84 vehicles were ticketed for violations including expired tags, blocking a sidewalk or not displaying proper licensing. Four more vehicles with long-expired registration tags were towed.

In three days, community service officers and parking enforcement officers will return to check on all citations and warnings and will begin towing vehicles that remain.

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